It might be a world away from Blackburn, but for Crystal Graham, working in Abu Dhabi has become a second home.

In a country where temperatures occasionally top 100°F, Crystal has taken to the climate as much as her work as an occupational therapist. The Occupational Therapy course she took at the University of Cumbria enabled her to start her career.

“It’s being able to help people recover and enable individuals to become more independent after suffering a debilitating illness,” Crystal said.

After completing a BSc in Psychology, Crystal followed her sister and friends in studying at the university. The proximity to her home town meant she was able to make the most of study and home life.

After graduating in 2012 she set her sights on working in the UAE. Although it took almost two years for her to obtain the health care licence to work there, she’s now developing the OT service at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

Coming to complete my Masters in an accredited vocational course enabled me to get a job straight from university and also has allowed me to travel the world and work abroad.

In Abu Dhabi, there are opportunities to travel and experience the country’s culture. From 'dune bashing' in jeeps to dressing up in the traditional abaya with weekends often spent at the beach, shopping or more than often a 'brunch.'

“I did hot yoga back home in the UK and managed to find an amazing hot yoga studio here -  work also have a gym where they hold normal yoga classes for free,” Crystal said. “Life in the UAE is a very expat culture I think 80% of people are expats and not local emirates. Living in such a diverse place, hearing people's stories and learning about different cultures is an everyday occurrence and very interesting. “

Her plans for the future include being able to manage a team of occupational therapists as the fledgling service develops. While she works with two therapists there are over 30 physio or physio assistants also employed at the clinic.

“I wanted to complete a vocational course that I would enjoy, could give me career stability, be able to use the skills I had already gained in my primary degree and travel the world,” Crystal said. “The advice I’d give others is to be patient, continue to persevere despite difficulties and set-backs. It’s said ‘You’re always one decision from a totally different life’  - completing the course at the University of Cumbria was one of those decisions for me.”

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